DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NBA All-Star game, which is in New Orleans this week, often proudly is referred to by hoop fans as the "the black Super Bowl."
The term was invented over a decade ago by writer J.A. Adande, an African American, and considering the crowds and culture that surround the game, this was a genius observation.
Except it implies that the Super Bowl is an event for white people.
No doubt white people (or all people) love going to the Super Bowl, but virtually the only ones with the means and the access to the game and its party circuit are white people who are fabulously rich, white people on a corporate expense account or white people named Paris Hilton.
But for the regular fans that want to attend? Take out a second mortgage and don't even think about hitting one of the cool parties or getting a table at a hot restaurant.
So here in Barack Obama's post-racial America, where the NBA All-Star game can embrace its blackness with pride, not prejudice, we offer what we would consider the real White Super Bowl.
Or at the very least, the Regular-Person Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, running for the 50th time Sunday afternoon.
"We serve 'em all here," says a man named Ray who runs a makeshift "bar" (he gives all the drinks away free) in the infield here. "Except (Jeff) Gordon fans, of course. And Jimmie Johnson. They're all cheaters."
When asked his last name, Ray says, "How about, 'Beer'? Ray Beer."
In the infield, you learn not to ask too many questions.
Mr. Beer is speaking from in front of his "Tiki Bar," which is mostly plywood attached to a white van. There is a tent attached to one side that serves as the "dance floor." In the back are some tents where Ray and his buddies sleep.
A big wind would knock the whole joint over, but he isn't worried. He has a cold can of Bud in front of him, the big race looming Sunday and in between the promise of encouraging women to go for the Tiki's trademark "shooters for hooters" offer.
"It works," he said. "I've seen a lot of hooters. I've seen ones that …"
Welcome to Daytona, the last blue collar stop on the nation's major sporting tour.
I've been to almost every big sporting event in the country, most of them every year, and when it comes to accessibility for middle and working class people, there is nothing like this.
Where even the regular season of many sports has been priced out for regular folks and working families, here is NASCAR's biggest event. It's still home to a bunch of guys camping out on the cheap for six consecutive days of watching races and six consecutive nights of partying. They wouldn't trade their experience for the finest luxury suite imaginable.
And why would they? The Tiki Bar sits tucked on Turn 3, maybe 100 yards from the actual track. You can see the race pretty well while leaning up against the bar, but if you climb up on the plywood deck on top of the van, the view is sweeping and spectacular.
The cost? Three tickets and an oversized parking spot for the week costs $900. That's $300 each for a place to stay, a place to party and a place to watch the race that's better than the actual grandstands. Allegedly, if you cook breakfast for the guards or slip them a cold one, getting extra people in is not a problem.
There just isn't anything like this in any other sport.
Hopefully one day, more than just white people will discover it. NASCAR is doing all it can to attract new fans, but the reality is that the gain in the number of non-white fans still is small.
Regardless, what NASCAR may lack in diversity of color, it more than makes up for in diversity of class. Not far from the proletariat tent city of Turns 3 and 4 are rows of Prevost Coaches that can run up to $2 million.
The view of the race there isn't much different than over here. And changes in tax base aside, the people aren't either.
"They drink beer, too," said fan Kevin Astuto. "They're as friendly to us as we are to them; it's not like they look down on us as some dirtballs."
See, it's all good at the White Super Bowl.
A few years ago Astuto and his buddy Chuck Copus, both from Jupiter, Fla., bought a 1995 Ford van for $500 and welded a sturdy and impressive viewing platform on top of it. Now they roll over here for a week of camping, drinking and watching races.
Comparatively, it costs nothing – a few hundred dollars each, which wouldn't get you close to just a single ticket for the Super Bowl ($750 minimum). They were one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of inventive, inexpensive viewing vehicles in the huge infield of this 2½-mile track. This is home to everything from pickup trucks to old campers to just guys with a Chevy Malibu and a humble two-man tent.
Hopefully NASCAR never will become so rich and popular that the people of Tent City will be priced out – some remember when a parking space went for just $35 – because this is one reason Daytona is such a terrifically unique major sporting event.
Tent City isn't for everyone, of course, particularly the teetotaler. Give the Calvary Christian Center credit for trying, though. It set up a big tent – "Get your Faith Refueled" – to spread the word, but Saturday afternoon it was mostly empty while 15 feet away a shirtless man was smoking something that certainly wasn't tobacco.
Not far past that was one of the original "bars" of Tent City – "Club 3." It basically is a small party tent with a sound system run by Randy Humprhreys, of Sanford, Fla. Through the years it's taken on legendary status around here.
It's the antithesis of what party Paris would host at the Super Bowl. Forget a guest list, cover charge or a dress code, the rules are simple: you have to be 21, no fighting and "no peeing in Corky's camp."
Corky has the spot next to Club 3. It seems a fair enough request since Humphreys gives the booze away free.
"It's nothing but regular people here, nothing but regular Joes," said Lee Fella, one of Humphreys' friends. "You can walk five camps down, find someone you've never met, have a beer and watch the race."
Not that everyone gets along in perfect harmony here. The Tiki crowd isn't all that keen on Club 3 – the dueling bars serve as the McDonald's and Burger King of the area and fight for "customers."
"We're not rivals," Ray Beer says, claiming the other club serves a purpose.
"We just send the guys that way. We keep the women here."
Sounds like a plan for Super Bowls of any color. Black Super Bowl in New Orleans, White one over here. At least everyone's having a good time.
- Super Bowl